One HOT Tip: Trim Thread Tails the Easy Way!

We’ve all wanted to set fire to projects that have run amok, but what if I told you that thread tails can be easily removed with a lighter?

Thread tails.

Embroidery machine auto cutters leave thread tails, tied off bobbin and embroidery threads. Depending upon how you have your machine set up, thread tails are made each time you change thread colors or between jumps.

Instead of sitting and hand trimming all those thread tails, simply burn them off. It is a tip that Bonnie has used and a popular practice of the pros.

Fused thread tail.

This only works with synthetic threads. Cotton and silk will burn and not melt. Also, be sure your garment can tolerate a flame. Cottons work well but nylon and poly blends will likely melt. Not only does thread burning tidy up the back of our projects, it also seals the knots and prevents them from unraveling.

You can also use this technique to fuse stray thread loops that can happen during embroidery as well as sealing edges of satin stitches that get clipped or come loose.

Sealed loop.

Fuzzy thread ends can show up after trimming jump stitches with scissors.

Loose top threads.

A long-handled gas lighter like you would use for lighting the grill or lighting candles works fine. There are also gadgets called thread burners or thread zappers, which are popular in leather work and beading. It’s a good idea to try this out on some test sews before using a project you can’t replace.

How to Burn Thread Tails

Wave a long-handled lighter over the back of your embroidery in smooth, quick strokes. You don’t want to stay in one place too long as you can burn the stabilizer and/or project. Hold the flame an inch or so away and wave it over the back, melting thread tails and cleaning up your work very quickly.

My test was stitched on cotton and had mesh cutaway stabilizer on the back. I worried the stabilizer would melt, but tested a scrap piece and it was just fine. It’s a bit scary, but it really works!

Debbie Henry
Sew Inspired by Bonnie

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  • Bonnie Welsh - May 09, 2024

    Jo—I would not use it with a nylon type stabilizer as I believe it would melt.

  • Bonnie Welsh - May 09, 2024

    Jo—I know it sounds scary but it works really well and very fast. It’s a trick learned from the commercial folks. You don’t hold it in one place, just a consistent wave across the back fairly quickly. It’s very effective. =)

  • Jo - May 09, 2024

    I would never use an open flame. A fine tipped wood burning tool gives you so much more control.

  • Deb Richert - May 06, 2024

    I use nylon mesh stabilizer will this still work? Most of my threads are rayon now.

  • Bonnie Welsh - May 06, 2024

    Reita—Just remember to wave the flame back and forth in a smooth motion. You don’t want to stop in one place. It works like magic. Scary at first so try with a test to get the hang of it. =)

  • Reita M Fisher - May 06, 2024

    I will definitely keep this tip in mind as I finish my next project. Thanks Bonnie.

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